CHECKLISTS

Timothy and Titus – Inconspicuous Leadership

1 Timothy 5 checklistI am a list maker…even in retirement from my secular work. For me, what doesn’t get listed, doesn’t get done. It is also very rewarding for me to check that item off the list when it is accomplished. The list has a progression of priorities. One task cannot happen until another task is completed. And so life goes with my lists guiding my behavior and productivity.

As I journal each morning in my conversational prayer with God, the Father, His Spirit guides me to make another list that helps me to mature and grow in Him. I am convicted of some of those “fruits of the Spirit” that I have not tended to or cultivated, have ignored or left undone. His Holy Spirit redirects my thoughts and helps me form a list of tasks that will help me improve my behavior. “Keep a close check on yourself”, writes Paul to Timothy. For me, that means to make a spiritual checklist that keeps me in close contact with the will and purpose of our Father, God and helps me to grow closer to Him.

We can do nothing of significance without God. I am convinced that He guides us to all things that are good for our growth and aid our learning about Him and how He works. Paul also gives Timothy sound advice about how to treat those whom God has called to lead with character traits with another list of how to lead. This list still applies to us today. The theme of this episode seems to be; Know God, Know Yourself, Know The Message, Know Your Audience. Our deeds, good and bad, will be evident. Be driven by God’s love in us.

1 Timothy 5, The Message

17-18 Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

19 Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.

20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.

21-23 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you.

24-25 The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

1 Timothy 5 check yourselfLEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE #6: Keep a Close Check on Yourself

Leadership Characteristics –

–Fully rely on God. Trust Him with all you are and all you have. We are His. All we have is His.
–Ask God “if there is anything offensive to you, cleanse me.” as the Psalmist prayed.
–Repent with a heart and mind not wanting to return to the old life.
–Look full into the face of Jesus, our Master, Lord and Savior with laser focus so we know what direction to take next.
–“Keep a close check on yourself.” Avoid, “he did it, I can, too” or “my sin is not as bad as his sin” or “everybody’s doing it” mentality.
–Ask God for wisdom, insight and understanding.
–Allow God’s transformation to continue in our lives.
–Ask God to make your lists of to BE and to DO. HE will prioritize your lists in ways you cannot imagine! Where He guides, He provides help all along the journey.
–Do all in a Spirit of love for God and others.
–Care enough to confront others with God’s love and concern for their spiritual well-being and growth.

Warning   The things on our spiritual check list can never be crossed off because we’ll be working on them our whole lives. By listing we are reminding ourselves of what we need to work on to “keep a close check” on our lives. It is only by The Atonement of Jesus Christ can we accomplish anything of eternal significance.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have convinced me that we must do spiritual “business” with You each day to improve our being in You. Thank you for helping us on this journey. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that points out things in our behavior that could cause us to crash…before crashing. Thank you for always being with us, guiding and directing, loving and protecting and challenging us to grow and bear Fruit. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world through your church.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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GOD’S CALL, HIS WILL, HIS WAY

Many years ago, I remember being involved in a rather challenging discussion in a Christian education leadership meeting about what a disciple is and how to know when people become a disciple.  At first the question stumped those in attendance.  Then after a few moments, the questions were followed by vigorous, discussions that were all over the map in opinions and ideas.  The thinking almost became that of the rule making Pharisees with hierarchies of learning and growing.  In a nutshell, it became complicated.  It made my heart hurt and my mind ache.

My thoughts turned to this scripture and a few others words of Jesus and the prophets before him such as Micah’s “what does the Lord require of you”.  Simplicity took over for me.  That’s how I think.  If I can understand with my limited intelligence then others can understand it, too.  If we, in the church, make it too complicated, then we have defeated the simplicity of Jesus words, “Follow Me.” 

If we want others who are wandering around with no purpose in life other the pleasing the world and themselves, to follow Jesus, we need to come back to the basics.  Jesus command to all who believe and follow Him are summarized in His commission:

  1. Tell the story of Jesus’ saving grace. 
  2. Go and make disciples of all nations.  “For God so loved THE WORLD…”
  3. Go and teach, share what we know, what Jesus taught us, not our opinions, but Truth of how to be saved from sin and walk with God in love and grace. 
  4. Proclaim that our King of kings and Lord of lords will be with those who believe ALWAYS and forever.  What a message of hope, grace, mercy and most of all, love for all who simply believe and follow Jesus.

Matthew 28

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Discipleship:  Doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right Spirit.  

Let’s break this down in simple terms:

  1. “Follow Me” says Jesus. 
  2. To follow means to obey His Holy Spirit. 
  3. Following means actively imitating both the life and teaching of the Master Jesus Christ.

“And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.” 
Micah 6:8

Walking with God means believing in His Son.  “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16 NLT

Jesus is Truth.  We speak TRUTH with the love of Jesus permeating our being, washing over every thought and word.  We love like Jesus loved us.  We imitate Christ’s humility.

“Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…”  Philippians 2

Come to Jesus.  Believe in Jesus.  Follow Jesus.  It’s all about Jesus.

Know to whom you belong.  Share what you know.

Abba Father,

Thank you.  Thank you for saving my soul and making me whole.  Thank you for taking all the broken pieces and using this cracked vessel for your glory.  Thank you for providing a way back to you through the redeeming love of your Son. Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you, Holy Spirit for being with us always.  Thank you for giving me simple ways to tell others so they will know and follow you, too.  Thank you for all you have done, are doing and will do in my life to transform me daily to be all you created me to be.  I’m not completing there yet, so keep working on me.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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LOOKING FOR JESUS

The Women knew who they were looking for but they came to the wrong place.  God knew they would go to the tomb because rising from the dead, just as Jesus said he would, was not at the forefront of their minds—only grief. 

Their burden of seeing their Friend and Master Teacher suffer and die so violently the day before didn’t deter their compassion to tend to the body of their Lord.  The body of Jesus was hastily buried because of the beginning of Passover.  Passover, the celebration of the God sparing the Jews from death with lamb’s blood over their doorposts, now takes on a new meaning…for those who believe.  Jesus was the Lamb of God, the final and complete sacrifice for our sin.

The Women will be the first to the empty tomb to hear the message and told to “Go tell the disciples!”  Jesus is not among the dead, but alive and walking around with the living!  Jesus died and rose again…just like He said he would.

Jesus rose from death in His final work to save our souls and reconcile us to God!  Jesus has become Savior and Lord to all who believe and follow Him!  Now the women remember and understand what the angel is telling them.  They drop their burial spices that is no longer “their work”.  Telling the Good News of Jesus, their Savior is now their new work.  “Come and see, go and tell!”  The women run, not walk, to go and tell!

HOLY PAUSE

Who are you looking for to save your soul and make you whole again?  Where are you looking?  Are you looking where death resides or where Life is abundant and free?  Are you looking for Jesus as Savior and Lord?

Do we really believe what we believe is really real?  Are we running to others to tell how Jesus died for our sins and rose again to defeat death forever? 

Matthew 28

Jesus Has Risen

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

The Guards’ Report

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

THEY THOUGHT HE WAS DEAD

If anything proves the kingship of Jesus Christ, it is His resurrection from the dead. The final chapter in Matthew’s gospel is a record of victory. It is a thrilling fact that believers today share in that victory!

What is the significance of the resurrection? It proves that Jesus is God’s Son. Jesus stated that He had authority to lay down His life and to take it up again (John 10:17–18).

It verifies the truth of Scripture. Both in the Old Testament and in the teaching of Jesus, His resurrection is clearly taught (see Ps. 16:10; 110:1). If Jesus had not come out of the tomb, then these Scriptures would not be true.

It assures our own future resurrection. Because Jesus died and rose again, we shall one day be raised to be like Him (1 Thess. 4:13–18). In fact, the entire structure of the Christian faith rests on the foundation of the resurrection. If we do away with His resurrection, we have no hope.

It is the proof of a future judgment. “Because he has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man who he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance unto all men, in that he has raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

It is the basis for Christ’s heavenly priesthood.  Because He lives by the power of an endless life, He is able to save us “to the uttermost” (Heb. 7:23–28). He lives to intercede for us.

It gives power for Christian living. We cannot live for God by our own strength. It is only as His resurrection power works in and through us that we can do His will and glorify His name (see Rom. 6:4).

It assures our future inheritance. Because we have a living hope, we can experience hopeful living. A dead hope grows weaker and weaker before it eventually dies. But because Jesus Christ is alive, we have a glorious future (see 1 Peter 1:3–5). Whenever God’s people gather on the Lord’s Day they bear witness that Jesus is alive and that the church has received spiritual blessings. When the followers of the Lord gathered that first Lord’s Day, they were discouraged and defeated.

The stone was not rolled away to permit Jesus to come out, for He had already left the tomb. It was rolled back so that the people could see for themselves that the tomb was empty.

“Come and see!” was followed by “Go and tell!” We must not keep the resurrection news to ourselves. The angel sent the women to tell (of all people) Christ’s own disciples. They should have been expecting the news, but instead, they questioned it even when they heard it.

It is when we are obeying God’s Word that He comes to us. Jesus had already appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden (John 20:11–18; Mark 16:9). Notice that our Lord’s first two resurrection appearances were to believing women. These faithful women were not only the last to leave Calvary, but they were also the first to come to the tomb. Their devotion to Jesus was rewarded.

Come and see.  Believe.  Go and tell.  The commands are simple.

In Jesus Name, Amen.  I believe.  I will continue to tell.

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GOD’S PLAN CAN NOT BE SEALED UP IN A TOMB

Jesus was crucified at nine o’clock in the morning; and from nine until noon, He hung in the light. But at noon, a miraculous darkness covered the land. This was not a sandstorm or an eclipse, as some liberal writers have suggested. It was a heaven-sent darkness that lasted for three hours. It was as though all of creation was sympathizing with the Creator. There were three days of darkness in Egypt before Passover (Ex. 10:21–23), and there were three hours of darkness before the Lamb of God died for the sins of the world.

Matthew 27

The Death of Jesus

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

The Burial of Jesus

57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

The Guard at the Tomb

65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

THINK ABOUT IT…WHAT WE LEARN

(Excerpts for Commentary by Warren Wiersbe)

Jesus had spoken at least three times before this darkness fell. While they were crucifying Him, He repeatedly prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He had spoken to the repentant thief and assured him a place in paradise (Luke 23:39–43). He had also given His mother into the care of His beloved disciple, John (John 19:18–27). But when the darkness came, Jesus was silent for three hours.

After three hours, the darkness left. Then Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” This was a direct quotation from Psalm 22:1. It was during the time of darkness that Jesus had been made sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). He had been forsaken by the Father! That darkness was a symbol of the judgment that He endured when He was “made a curse” for us (Gal. 3:13). Psalm 22:2 suggests a period of light and a period of darkness, and Psalm 22:3 emphasizes the holiness of God. How could a holy God look with favor on His Son who had become sin?

In rapid succession, the Lord spoke three more times. He said, “I thirst” (John 19:28), and this fulfilled Psalm 69:21. Someone took pity on Him and moistened His lips with some sour wine. The others waited to see if perhaps Elijah would come to His rescue. Then Jesus shouted, “It is finished! Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” The fact that Jesus shouted with a loud voice indicates that He was in complete control of His faculties. Then He voluntarily yielded up His spirit and died.

Though He was “crucified through weakness” (2 Cor. 13:4), He exercised wonderful power when He died. Three miracles took place simultaneously: The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; an earthquake opened many graves; some saints arose from the dead. The rending of the veil symbolized the wonderful truth that the way was now open to God (Heb. 10:14–26). There was no more need of temples, priests, altars, or sacrifices. Jesus had finished the work of salvation on the cross.

The earthquake reminds us of what happened at Mount Sinai when God gave the law to Moses (Ex. 19:16ff.). The earthquake at Calvary signified that the demands of the law had been met and the curse of the law forever abolished (Heb. 12:18–24). The torn veil indicates that He conquered sin; the earthquake suggests that He conquered the law and fulfilled it; and the resurrections prove that He defeated death.

We are not told who these saints were; they were simply believers who had died. The King James Version suggests that they did not come out of the graves until after His resurrection; the New American Standard Bible agrees with this. It is difficult to believe that they were given life on Friday afternoon and yet remained in their tombs until Sunday. The New International Version suggests that these saints were resurrected immediately and came out of their tombs, but that they did not visit in Jerusalem until after Jesus had been raised from the dead. It is not likely that many Jews would be in the cemetery on Passover, since they might be defiled by the dead. These resurrections could have taken place with nobody finding out at that time.

The result of all of this was the testimony of the centurion and those watching. “Truly this was the Son of God.” Did this indicate saving faith? Not necessarily. But certainly it indicated hearts that were open to the truth.

The only disciple at the cross when Jesus died was John (John 19:35). But many women were watching from a distance, undoubtedly those who had assisted Him in His ministry (Luke 8:2). Three women were named: Mary Magdalene, who had been delivered of seven demons (Luke 8:2); Mary, the mother of James and Joses, who also was at the tomb on resurrection morning (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:1); and Salome, the mother of James and John. Salome had asked Jesus for special thrones for her sons. We wonder how she felt as she saw Him hanging on a cross.

Were it not for the intervention of Jospeh of Arimathea and Nicodemus (John 19:38), the body of Jesus might not have had a decent burial. Joseph and Nicodemus had come to believe in Jesus, even though they had not openly testified of their faith. God kept them hidden, as it were, that they might care for the body of Jesus. Since Joseph was a rich man, and he prepared the new tomb, he helped in the fulfillment of prophecy, Isaiah 53:9—“He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death” (niv).

It is not likely that Joseph prepared that tomb for himself. He was a wealthy man and certainly would not want to be buried so near a place of execution. He prepared that tomb for Jesus, and he selected a site near Golgotha so that he and Nicodemus could bury Christ’s body quickly. Joseph and Nicodemus could very well have been in the garden waiting for Jesus to die. When they took Him from the cross, they defiled themselves and were not able to eat the Passover. But, what difference did it make? They had found the Lamb of God!

In contrast to the loving care given by Jesus’ friends, notice the plottings and maneuvering of the Jewish leaders. The disciples had forgotten that Jesus promised to rise from the dead on the third day, but His enemies remembered. Pilate permitted the leaders to set a guard at the tomb. This guard put an official Roman seal on the stone. All of this was of God, for now it was impossible for anyone—friend or foe—to steal the body. Without realizing it, the Jewish leaders and the Roman government joined forces to help prove the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

AND THAT’S WHY WE SING PRAISE TO OUR KING JESUS!

Death could not hold You
The veil tore before You
You silence the boast of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring
The praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again

You have no rival
You have no equal
Now and forever God You reign
Yours is the kingdom
Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names


What a powerful Name it is
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a powerful Name it is
Nothing can stand against
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus…

Lord and Savior,

THANK YOU, thank you, thank you.  Thank you for saving my soul.  Thank you for growing and transforming me.  Continue your work of salvation in me.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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LET HIM COME DOWN

Matthew 27

Still life with crown made of thorns and bible

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is Jesus, the king of the Jews.

38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

“LET HIM COME DOWN FROM THE CROSS AND WE WILL BELIEVE”

The gospel writers portray the torture of Jesus with words that parallel exactly what was foretold by the prophets.  Every detail that was said centuries earlier was fulfilled in Jesus.  But God’s people then did not believe.  I am struck this morning at the mocking phrase “Let him come down from the cross and we will believe in Him”, while Jesus’ blood flows from his nailed hands and feet.  Somehow, I think they would not. 

Their mocking, misinformed, unbelieving minds were made up.  They did not know that Jesus could indeed call upon angel armies to come and rescue him.  They did not know the real power Jesus had to reverse what was happening to Him.  And what they truly did not know or understand was that the Love Jesus had for them and the rest of humanity was what held Him passionately to the cross.  It wasn’t the ropes and nails through his body that held him there, it was His extreme, relentless, unconditional Love for you and for me.  God’s love, demonstrated in His Son, held Jesus firmly and resolutely in place until the debt for our sin was paid in full.  This is what led Jesus to say from the cross, “Forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”  They know not.  Let that sink in.

The word crucifixion was not the word at the time.  This act of torture was so cruel and unimaginable that there was not a word for in language at that time.  The word “crucifixion” was invented in the Latin later to describe the torturous act and extreme pain of being bound and nailed to a cross.  This form of punishment was also meant to totally dehumanize and humiliate the criminal.

First, the soldiers disrobed Jesus and dressed Him in an old “soldier’s cloak.” Imagine attiring the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6) in a discarded military uniform! Matthew described the robe as scarlet, while Mark used the word purple. There is no contradiction; “reddishpurple” would be a good description of an old faded garment. Imagine how our Lord must have felt when this robe was thrown on His bleeding body.

A king must have a crown, so they wove together the thorny twigs of a plant and pushed it on His head. They gave Him a reed as a scepter, and then bowed before Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They repeated this mock homage not realizing that the One they were mocking was indeed King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Then they did something that no subject would ever do to his king: They spat on Him and hit Him with the reed. While some of the soldiers were bowing before Him, others were hitting Him on the head or spitting on Him (Isa. 50:6). Jesus took all of this humiliation and pain without speaking or fighting back (1 Peter 2:18ff.).

His submission was not a sign of weakness; it was a sign of strength.

Crucifixion was the most shameful and painful way to execute a criminal. Jesus did not simply die; He died “even the death of a cross” (Phil. 2:8). Roman citizens ordinarily were not crucified. In fact, crucifixion was never mentioned in polite society, so degrading was this form of capital punishment.

Jesus was led outside the city to the place of execution (Heb. 13:12–13). It was required that the prisoner carry his own cross (or at least the crossbeam), and that he wear a placard around his neck announcing his crime. That placard was then hung over his head on the cross for all to see.

There was to be no delay in this execution. The Passover was about to be celebrated, and the Jewish leaders did not want their holy day desecrated by the dead bodies of criminals (John 19:31). In order to hasten the procession, the soldiers drafted a visitor to Jerusalem, Simon from Cyrene. He had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, and now he was humiliated by being forced to carry the cross of an unknown criminal! Roman soldiers had the authority to draft citizens (Matt. 5:41).

Jesus was not executed in a quiet building, away from the city’s noise and activity. He was executed on a public highway, on a day when perhaps hundreds of people were traveling. The fact that His indictment was written in three languages—Greek, Hebrew, and Latin—indicates that a cosmopolitan crowd passed by Golgotha, “the place of the skull.” This in itself was humiliating, for the passers-by could stare and shout bitter mockery at the victims. Again, this mockery from the crowd had been predicted (Ps. 22:6–8).

It was bad enough that the common rabble mocked Him, but even the Jewish leaders joined the attack. They reminded Him of His promise to rebuild the temple in three days (Matt. 26:61; John 2:19). “If You can do that, You can come down from the cross and prove to us that You are God’s Son!” In reality, it was the fact that He stayed on the cross that proved His divine sonship. The Jewish rulers mocked His claim to be the Savior. “He saved others; He cannot save Himself”.

Yes, He had saved others. But if He saved Himself, then nobody else could be saved! He did not come to save His life, but to give it as a ransom for sinners.  Jesus, who knew no sin, took on the sins of the world.  God can no longer look upon His Son because God cannot be where sin is.  That’s why hymn writers compose songs that relay the message, “And He died alone, for you and me…”

But that is not the end of this message of Truth!  The salvation story of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord does not end here.  It is the beginning of eternal life for all who truly believe.

HOLY PAUSE

Do I really believe that what I believe is really real? 

Can we pause and let the depth of God’s love for us overwhelm our being? 

Can we now get up and wake up from our complacency and selfishness to begin to love like Jesus? 

Let us begin this day with asking God what HE wants and then resolutely do what He asks. 

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Abba Father,

I believe.

By Your power working in and through me, I believe.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

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FORCED TO MAKE A DECISION

When was the last time you had to make a life-changing decision?  Decision making is sometimes arduous and requires thinking beyond what we know at the time.  What path does your mind walk in deciding between options and solutions?  Some of us “shoot from the hip”, meaning that we make quick judgements, not thinking through the consequences our decisions might have on those around us. 

Some of us think through EVERY possible option with meticulous care, weighing all the possibilities, considering all the ramifications of our final decision.  Some avoid making decisions altogether by looking to others to make the decision for them.  This is called “passing the buck”. Then there are those who do nothing at all.  Doing nothing is also a decision.  Finally, there are those who turn decision-making over to popular opinion.  Then the decision becomes a “political statement” that provides no viable, helpful solution.

Pilate has been given a monumental decision to make.  What do I do with Jesus? 

Matthew 27

Jesus Before Pilate

11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.

19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

“Barabbas,” they answered.

22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

THINK ABOUT IT…

Jesus, who knew no sin, was punished for the sins of those who shouted “Crucify Him”.  Let that sink in. This crowd includes some of the same people who shouted “Hosanna”, (God save us), a few days earlier. 

Political Pilate turned to a politically coerced crowd to make the decision for him. 

“I am innocent of this man’s blood,” Pilate said.  But was he?  Pontius Pilate was the sixth Roman procurator to serve in Judea. He was not liked by the Jews because he did things that deliberately violated their law and provoked them. He was not above killing people to accomplish his purposes (Luke 13:1). 

The Jewish leaders accused Jesus of three crimes. They claimed that He was guilty of misleading the nation, forbidding the paying of taxes, and claiming to be a king (Luke 23:2). These were definitely political charges, the kind that a Roman governor could handle. Pilate focused on the third charge—that Jesus claimed to be a king—because this was a definite threat to Rome. If he could deal with this “revolutionary” properly, Pilate could please the Jews and impress the emperor at the same time.

Pilate wanted to solve the problem but not make any definite decision about Jesus. As a Roman governor, he was pledged to uphold the law. But as a politician, he knew he had to get along with the people. Every decision Pilate made forced him to make another decision, until he was the prisoner of his own evasions. He questioned Jesus further, but He made no reply.

Pilate had one more scheme: He would follow the tradition of releasing a prisoner. Instead of selecting some unknown prisoner, Pilate deliberately chose the most notorious prisoner he had, Barabbas. This man was a robber (John 18:40) and a murderer (Mark 15:7). Pilate reasoned that the crowd would reject Barabbas and ask for Jesus to be released, for who wants a convicted murderer and robber turned loose into society?

But Pilate was wrong. In spite of the fact that Jesus had ministered by healing the sick and even raising the dead, the people rejected Him and chose a murderer to be released. Pilate realized that a riot was in the making, and he could not afford to let this happen. The very thing the rulers wanted to prevent—a riot at Passover season (Matt. 26:5)—they engineered themselves in order to force Pilate to act. The governor did act, purely out of expediency and not on the basis of integrity. He released a guilty man and condemned an innocent Man, and that innocent Man is the Son of God.

Pilate took three steps in an attempt to exonerate himself. First, he washed his hands and declared that he was innocent of any guilt. Second, he stated clearly that Jesus was a just person, that is, not worthy of death. Third, he offered to punish Jesus and then release Him, but the rulers would accept no compromise. Finally, the religious rulers used the one weapon against which Pilate had no defense: “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar” (John 19:12 nasb). At this, Pilate capitulated, had Jesus scourged, and delivered Him to be crucified.

Since the Jews could not execute criminals, it was necessary for the Roman officials to assist, and Pilate issued the order. Of course, all of this was in fulfillment of prophecy.  The Jews did not crucify; they used stoning to execute criminals. Psalm 22, written by a Jew, is a vivid picture of crucifixion. “They pierced my hands and my feet” (Ps. 22:16). Jesus was made a curse for us, for “cursed is every one that hangs on a tree” (Gal. 3:13; Deut. 21:23). But still God was at work in fulfilling His divine purposes. GOD was and is still in control.  Not the Jewish leaders, not the crowd, and not Pilate.  God.

LET’S RECAP…

Pilate knew what was right, but refused to do anything about it. He was “willing to please the people” (Mark 15:15). Judas yielded to the devil in his great sin (John 13:2, 27); Peter yielded to the flesh when he denied his Lord; but Pilate yielded to the world and listened to the crowd. Pilate looked for the easy way, not the right way. He has gone down in history as the man who condemned Jesus.

HOLY PAUSE

We are forced into making a decision for whom we will follow daily.  

What will we do with Jesus today? 

Is Jesus our Savior? 

Is Jesus our LORD of lords? 

Is Jesus the One and Only Son of God we follow?

Are we allowing the crowd to make this lifechanging decision for us?

Dear Heavenly Father,

You had a plan from the beginning to save us.  The Plan was Jesus, Your Son.  Thank you for loving us, while we were yet sinners, so much that you gave your life for ours.  This is amazing love indeed.  Help me to increasingly love like you love with each passing day on earth.  Help us all to look to you for wisdom in decision making that is holy, just, merciful and true.  Help us to avoid the senseless, lawless, political crowds of the world.  Help us to think like you think for your thoughts and ways are higher than ours.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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SOLD OUT

We don’t know what Judas was thinking would happen to Jesus when he sold his act of betrayal of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.  Did Judas think this act would force Jesus to fight back, to finally take a more aggressive lead and begin a revolution like Barabbas had done?  Would Judas’ act of betrayal force the Son of God to detour from God’s Perfect Plan?  What WAS he thinking?  God only knows.

PAUSE FOR REFLECTION…What are we thinking? 

Do we think we know better at times with our own plan for living life?  Do we sell out our own souls to accomplish own desires and plans?  Are we remorseful, sorry we got caught, when our plans don’t go well? 

Or are we like Peter who disobeyed, but was regretful, saw the failure, and was repentant?  Like Peter, do we learn from the mistake, the misstep, the sin, the failure and turn back to Jesus with all that is in us?

There is a difference.  God knows our hearts.  He knows the difference. 

So, we ask, are sold out to Jesus?  Or are we sold out to self, to following anything or anyone but Jesus?

We are reminded of Jesus’ earlier teaching at this point, ““Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”  Matthew 16

Jesus followed God’s Plan exactly, just as Scripture said He would.  How did Jesus stay focused on God’s Plan as the Son of Man?  He prayed, “Not my will, but yours” as often as needed. 

Matthew 27

Judas Hangs Himself

27 Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10 and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

THE REST OF THE STORY…

God told Jeremiah, His prophet, centuries earlier, “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel…”  This is the price God’s people set for the life of the One who would set us free from our sin by willing laying down is life in exchange for ours. 

So, what does it profit me to sell out to the world, losing my soul in the process?

Who are sold out to right now?  There are only two choices.  Choose wisely.  It’s a matter of life or death.  It’s a matter of peace or torment. 

Abba Father,

I come to you repentant for allowing my eyes to gaze away from you and your plan in any given moment, to follow my plan.  I want what you want for me.  What is your perfect plan for me today?  Make your desires for me be my desires.  For it is you, it always has been you, that brings life with pure joy and perfect peace.  Even in sadness, disappointments, grief, and challenging situations and circumstances, you give peace.  Thank you.  You remind me once more why I am sold out to you.  You are God and I am not.  Show me your will and I will trust and obey.  In Jesus Name, Amen

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TORN BETWEEN

We have all had that point of no return decision to either speak up for what is right, to mumble some excuse, deny knowing anything about it, or to just be quiet and walk away.  What would we do if our life was threatened and in danger of being taken into custody and deemed a criminal for knowing Jesus?  Would our love and passion trump our fear?  Peter is torn between his love for Jesus and fear of being jailed for knowing Him.

Peter’s love and passion brought him to the courtyard so he could see and hear what was happening to Jesus who has been taken away from him.  But Peter’s fear drove him to deny he ever knew Jesus, His beloved Friend, who would soon be His Savior.

Jesus told Peter what would happen, but Peter forgot—until the rooster crowed. 

Matthew 26

Peter Disowns Jesus

69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.

70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”

73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”

74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”

Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

“I DON’T KNOW HIM!”

Jesus told Peter it would happen.  Peter remembered what Jesus had said the second the rooster crowed.  All Peter could do was weep in regret.  Peter used the excuse of denial to be closer to Jesus but he would soon learn from the look in Jesus’ eyes that Peter’s disobedience of being there in the first place led to his denial of ever knowing Jesus.  Ah, this is a plot twist, right? 

Jesus told his disciples what He came to earth to do.  He was sent by God, His Father, to seek and to save lost people.  It was foretold in the Scriptures they grew up reading at the Synagogue.  One day, in the midst of ministry and mission, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do say I am?”  It was Peter who had the right answer, “You are Messiah, Son of the living God”. 

Remember, it was Peter that Jesus said He would give the “keys to the Kingdom” to as he worked with passionate Peter’s flaws and missteps to build the church Jesus would begin in Peter.  “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  Matthew 16

Did Peter remember this moment of confirmation and calling and wonder if he had just blown it all?  Did he cry with regret for his disobedience of being there in the first place and then disowning Him on top of it all, wondering if what Jesus put in him would be lost forever?

Peter repented.  Later, after Jesus rose again and walked among His beloved once more to prove His power over death, Jesus forgave Peter.  Peter was restored to Jesus, he was renewed to live out his purpose to “go and make disciples” and to build the church Jesus built first in Peter, a church that no one can destroy. 

If it were not for Peter’s humbled repentance to Jesus and his restoration through Jesus’ forgiveness, the story of the church might have been different.  But Jesus knew it would be Peter.  Peter’s quick mind got him into trouble when he was younger, but as he grew in his love and passion for Jesus, his wisdom and obedience trumped all fear and he became an apostle and spokesperson of the beginnings of the church Jesus ordained him to build.  Just as Jesus said.

Jesus knows our weaknesses.  Jesus knows our love for Him.  We all mess up from time to time.  Are we ruined forever?  Not according to the story of Peter!  I have made big mistakes in my life but the love and forgiveness of Jesus set me back on the road to His will and purpose for me.  He will do the same for you.  He always has and always will love and forgive us. 

You might be thinking, what about Judas?  Judas was sorry he got caught but not repentant for what he did.  Taking his own life was just another form of trying to control life on his terms.  That is the difference.

Abby Father, Lord of all,

We learn so much from Peter’s life and you knew we would.  You are God and we are not.  Thank you for forgiveness of all our sins.  Thank you for renewal and restoration of who you created and meant for us to be!  Thank you for your purpose for living that has meaning and significance for your Kingdom!  Thank you for saving my soul.  Thank you for making me whole again.  Continue to transform me.  Help us to help others find and follow you by loving them like you love us.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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“ARE YOU NOT GOING TO ANSWER?”

     When Jesus goes silent…

In our world where evil thoughts and false ideologies are arrogantly and boldly displayed daily at work, in the media, in our families among the lost, and infiltrates a group of imperfect people God calls His church, we wonder what answer to give to all the false accusations, the sarcasm and mocking brought about by selfish lives lived out with selfish motives.  God and His Ways are set aside or at best, manipulated for self-produced power and control.  God is not political.  God is God.  He is Truth.  Some choose Truth.  Some do not.

This isn’t a new “thing” we wrestle and battle daily.  Evil’s tricks, manipulations of people, with schemes to destroy God’s people and their families with lies and deception isn’t new.  It began with Adam and Eve.  At some point in our lives, we have been deceived.  Some see the deceit and come back to Truth.  Some do not.

This battle for Truth wasn’t suddenly caused by COVID, wars or rumors of wars, or sudden uprisings.  We can blame no one but ourselves.  Jesus taught that there would always be the poor among us, there would always be disagreements, there would always be lost people and there would always be decisions to be made for Him or against Him.  His answer was to the put God first, be Love as He is Love, and then do what God says.  In Jesus’ three years of ministry He always went to God first, got His direction and words from God, before doing anything of significance in His mission given by God to “seek and to save” the world God loved.  So, I stop to ask myself, how are we any more important in God’s work than to be with God and ask for God’s direction before doing anything in His Kingdom work?  Sobering, right?  We are famous for praying, “God, bless my/our plans”, when instead we should be asking, “God, what do YOU want and what do you want me to do, if anything, to accomplish your purpose?”

Jesus previously told His disciples, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.  9Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  Matthew 24

So, our situation isn’t new.  Evil was not orchestrated by God to test our faith.  Evil just is and always will be used to build our faith if we believe and stay strong and firm with God’s ever-present Holy Spirit helping us.  We will be mocked for believing in Jesus.  Sarcastic remarks will be made to make us feel less valuable in the eyes of the world when we say no to what is not God’s will for us.  These moments will be weird and awkward for the moment.  But, stop and think, who are we trying to please, honor and praise and live for?  Who will save us?  Who will be with us forever?  Whose love never changes and is unconditional?  Not the world, only God.

So, what is our answer?  Our lives.  Our daily walk will speak louder than any words we can ever utter.  Jesus needs NO defense in what will be accomplished.  HE is our Victor now.  He will proclaim victory when He comes for us!  So, no matter what is happening around us, we continue to love like Jesus.  We will suffer heartache at decisions made by loved ones who are lost, but we will continue to love.  When they hurt us with words, rolled eyes and sneers, we will never stop loving them.  This is our answer.  It is our only answer.  What echoes in my mind as I worked on this line of thinking is what Jesus said on the cross, “Forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”  This is the Love we are told to freely give because God freely gave His love to us through His Son, Jesus.  “Freely you have received, free give.”  Matthew 10:8

The gospel of Matthew written as a witness and solely inspired by God has taught us Truth.  Now we must live what we say we believe.

Matthew 26

Jesus Before the Sanhedrin

57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.

Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?”

“He is worthy of death,” they answered.

67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68 and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”

Jesus, His body the “temple of God” will indeed be torn down by the religious elite who will lie to the Roman government.  HOWEVER, Jesus, Son of God, will defeat evil’s plot planted in the minds of mere men to destroy Him.  He will go down to the residence of the evil one and defeat him at his own game.  He will rise from death a Victor over all sin!  He will rise to life forever!  Jesus is alive today and alive forevermore.  Jesus sits at the right hand of God, Our Father, as our advocate for eternity to all who believe.  Jesus, Our Savior.  Jesus, Our Lord.

FIND and FOLLOW Jesus.  He is Truth.

Lord,

Help us to love like you love.  Help us to live in peace with Your Spirit of Truth permeating our being.  Cleanse our hearts.  Remove anything, any thinking, that offends you and not part of who you are.  Then show us what your will is for each of us this day.  Protect and guide us.  Lead and direct our thinking and behaving.  Tell us when to speak and when to be silent.  Help us to walk in your ways.  To you be all glory!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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HOW THEN?

At the beginning of creation, God had a Plan.  The Plan was Jesus.  The Plan was designed and implement at just the right time and place.  The Plan was put in place at the beginning, knowing God’s created humans would need a Way back to Him.  God’s beloved, created humans were/are given the freedom to choose God and his goodness and perfect will or to choose their own way.  Freedom to choose good or evil was given to mankind.  Why?  Because God wanted people to come to Him because they desired to come to Him, not by force, but by loving Him back.  “We love God because He first loved us.”

THE PLAN: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

God loves each one of His created.  He loved the world then, he loves us now.  God loves us while we are wandering in our sin, in our repentance of our sin, and after our sin has been forgiven.  God simply and unconditionally loves us.  “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from wrath through Him!”  (Romans 8, Berean Study Bible)

Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, also had a choice.  He didn’t have to die for our sin.  He could have called down armed and ready angels to rescue Him from the false accusations, the betrayal by His beloved, followed by the excruciating pain of torture that will lead to death on a cross for all to see.  But He didn’t.

In Jesus words, “But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

Jesus fulfilled God’s Plan, designed as meticulously as His creatioin, to rescue us from sin, clear all debts of sin, and now marked PAID IN FULL.

Matthew 26

Jesus Arrested

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

50 Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

55 In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

HOW THEN?

How then can we resist an innocent, perfect man who died for our sin?  Why do we pause in our decision to run to Him?

How then can we wonder if we should believe when the facts are written as proof in many other writings other than the Bible?

How then can we deny the existence of a God who SO LOVED that HE GAVE His Son to save us from death in exchange for life eternal?

How then can we make the wrong choice and follow a world that will soon fade away?  We must answer the question of Truth, “Do we really believe that what we believe is really real…and do we live what we say we believe?” 

How then can we believe?  Because God, our Father, is present with us through His Holy Spirit.  God is for us, never against us.  He knows us by name.  He knows what we are thinking.  He knows our struggles in our momentary doubts on days that make us uneasy and overwhelmed.  He still loves us.  God will always love us–forever.  He wants the very best for us.  He sent His best to save us from this world and worldview thinking.  God’s best is Jesus.   We need to only accept that He did, believe in that He did and love Him back with all that is in us.  No one has done too much to receive the grace and mercy of God.

Jesus fulfilled The Plan according to God’s Will and for God’s purpose…to save us.

Find and follow the One who loves you most.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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NOT MY WILL…

Sit here while I pray.

Stay here and keep watch with me.

Watch and pray.

The hour has come, rise.

Rise!  Let’s go.

                                           –Jesus

It is the beginning of the Finish.  Jesus, who is Son of Man and Son of God, knew what was about to happen.  As the Son of Man, he knew the pain that would be inflicted.  “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”  The cup of responsibility for the salvation of the sins of the world was heavy on his shoulders.  His shoulders would carry all the sins of everyone to the cross.  So, we realize it wasn’t about the pain, but the sin Jesus would carry that overwhelmed Him with extreme sorrow.  He, who knew NO sin, now would carry the sins of the world.  If there is some other way…then let’s do that, Jesus prays.  

But the Son of God knew there was no other way.

The scenario of our salvation was foretold in much detail by the prophets.  Jesus knew every detail before experiencing what was about to happen.  His disciples, even his closest beloved friends, did not quite understand…yet.  Their weariness overcame them.  They fell asleep.

Imagine being asked to pray with Jesus!  But you are so tired, you can’t even….  His followers were about to make choices that would change their lives forever.  But, for now, they fell asleep.  They didn’t realize the temptations to run and hide were to come in a few hours.  They didn’t know that most of them would run from protecting Jesus.  They still didn’t realize that one of them sold Jesus out for a few coins.  They just went to sleep. 

Matthew 26

Gethsemane

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

THINK ABOUT IT…

Yes, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  We all know that.  For our own flesh is weak even though we have willing intentions to please God.  So, we come full circle back to the direct commands of Jesus that we began with today.  His imperative statements leap off the page for us!

“Sit here with Me, keep watch with Me, pray with Me.”  THIS is the kind of intimacy with God that Jesus is demonstrating for us before He goes to the cross to reconcile all of us to God!  Being so intimately related to God through His Son, Jesus in this way helps us avoid temptations to run from Him, His teachings and instructions to live life for His glory and our good.  Our intimate, loving, knowing relationship with Jesus draws us closer and closer to God. When it is time for God to work through us, Jesus will give us our marching orders, “Rise, GO with Me.”  So, we daily sit, watch, pray with readiness until then.  Wow, what a message to our hearts, minds and souls today!

HOLY PAUSE

When and how has “the hour” come for you in your walk?  Did you rise or run?  This is a sobering thought, isn’t it? 

We must evaluate where we are in our relationship with Jesus often.  Why, because when we do, we grow deeper in our love and more intimate with Him when we do.  Life begins to make sense.  The peace of Christ settles our souls.

Abba Father,

I repent of running when I needed to just sit with You, wait for You so I could rise and go with You.  I don’t want to go my own way, but my flesh is weak.  Help me to listen closely.  Help me to be still and wait, watch and pray in Your Holy Name.  Then help me to rise and go when YOU say.  Heal my sleepiness and avoidance of facing what I should face in this life.  Help me to avoid all temptations to turn from you.  I know you are with me.  Please give me wisdom, insight and understanding.  Direct my life.  May all I think, do or say be for your glory.  I love you, Lord.  Thank you for taking and drinking the cup, dear Jesus.  May YOUR WILL be done.

In Jesus Name, Amen.  I believe. 

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